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Law subject guide: NZ case law

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NZ Legal Publishing

There are 3 major publishing houses. Knowing who publishes what will speed up your search.

Butterworths = LexisNexis. They publish the official reports: the New Zealand Law Reports.

Brookers = Westlaw = Thomson Reuters

CCH = Intelliconnect = Wolters Kluwer

 

Finding NZ case law: basic strategies

This page is designed to help you find and use NZ case law.

If you have a full citation to a reported case, use the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations  to decode the citation (if you need to), then search the library catalogue for the title of the report series; then find the full text - which may be print and/or online.

For just about everything else,  start with index databases, then move on to full-text sources.

Two exceptions to that general rule:

  • use print sources if you need earlier material (i.e. pre-1985). Consult the Faculty of Law Research Guide  - or just ask.
  • use NZLII (it's free) if you can't access Briefcase or LinxPlus, or if you are looking for decisions from the lower courts that aren't in Briefcase or LinxPlus.

NZ case law: indexes

The key online index databases for NZ case law since the mid-1980s are Briefcase and LINX/LinxPlus.

You can find

  • cases by case name
  • cases which cite a case you know about
  • cases which cite a statute or regulation you know about
  • cases on a particular topic or area of law

You will get

  • a brief description of the case, including the medium-neutral citation and/or court file number
  • the full text of the unreported judgment (if you're lucky - for recent cases you probably will be)
  • the citation to the reported version, if it has been reported
  • a link to the reported version (if we subscribe to it). Briefcase will link to report series published by Brookers/Thomson Reuters (e.g. FRNZ); LinxPlus will link to report series published by Lexisnexis NZ (e.g. NZFLR).

NZ cases: full-text sources

Reported cases are published by commercial publishers. These cases are selected because of their legal significance, typically because they state or develop a point of law, so they are a good source of legal authority.

The New Zealand Law Reports (NZLR) is New Zealand's official law report series.

  • find them in print in the Law Library: Law KG341 N4.
  • find them online via the link below.

Other New Zealand report series deal with cases on a particular area of law.

  • find them in print via the library catalogue. Or browse at and around Law KG 342.
  • find them online,  via WestlawNZ, CCH or LexisNexis NZ. You can get to cases via the law report series (search or browse); or link to cases from the text of the online looseleaf services. Get more detail from the law databases page.

An unreported case is the court document. The case may subsequently be reported, if it is significant; or it may remain unreported, in which case it is more likely to cite the authorities you need rather than to be an authoritative case.

  • find recent unreported cases via Briefcase and LinxPlus - links below.
  • find unreported cases via NZLII. Particularly good for tribunal decisions that may not be in Briefcase or LINXPlus.
  • find older unreported judgments via our Unreported Judgments Index.

NZ cases: print sources

Indexes and case citators

  • Butterworths annotations to the New Zealand statutes (blue pages) Law KG323. Good for finding cases on a section of a statute. The volumes are arranged aphabetically by statute, with brief case notes under each section of the statute.
  • New Zealand Case Citator Law KG351 NH332. Good for finding reported NZ cases that cite reported NZ cases.
  • each report series will have its own index, either in each volume or separately at the end of the series.

Reported cases

  • Find these via the catalogue - search for the report series title.
  • Browse at and around Law KG342.

Unreported judgments

NZLII

NZLII is a valuable source of full-text case law. Scope varies but includes Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court decisions from at least 2005; plus a lot of decisions from tribunals and authorities.